Instant Messaging Guide



Hi! I'm fairly new to computers and Internet, and I heard a lot about instant messaging.

They say it can help stay in touch with friends and family and to meet new people. What is the difference between messaging and email? How safe is it? Are there any risks with using messaging software? What is the best messenger program? Are they 100% free? I'd like to know all options before downloading and using one. Thanks for the advice!

New Internet User



Instant messaging is just like talking on the phone, but with typing, not voice. Basically, you can “call” your friends and have a private chat with them if they are online in front of their computer and logged on.

If you and your contact are both online, you can message each other in real time. Once a connection is established, usually there is a small window where you can type your message, your friend can type theirs, and it shows up as a conversation on both computers. It appears as something like this:

AlMas:So how was your vacation?

DiggaMe: Weather was perfect, but the ocean was cold

AlMas: Really? That’s too bad

DiggaMe: Oh well, at least the bar was free

So you type something, they type something else, and the conversation appears instantly on the screen; hence the name “instant messaging”. It is quite similar to, SMS text messaging on mobile phones .

Therefore, instant messaging is quite different from email. Emails are slower, longer and usually more deliberate and formal. When you send an e-mail, it is waiting on the email server for the person to retrieve it (similar to a telephone answering machine); whereas instant messaging happens in real time (like talking on the phone). Therefore you and the other person must both be online simultaneously in order to type to each other. Emails are letters and instant messaging is chatting, so if you have used chat rooms before, then instant messaging will be very familiar, except it occurs in a “private room” between the two contacts. Unlike email, instant messaging programs will also typically show who is online.

Instant messenger programs can be broadly divided into few categories: the most famous and popular one is the “big Three” - AOL Instant Messenger (aka AIM), MSN Messenger (aka Live Messenger). They each have their own software running on their own network, which are not compatible with the competitors. It is similar to 3 major cellular phone companies who do not allow customers call the numbers from the other company. The second category is smaller, less popular IM clients like ICQ ("I seek You") or Paltalk, GoogleChat, Skype and others, and finally there are "unified" clients like GAIM and Trillian, which attempt to operate across multiple networks from the popular messengers described above.

If you have never used IM before, you will need to decide on joining one of the ”big Three”, download their specific IM software, and create an account with them. Usually, all the good or cool ones are already taken, so you will probably have to go with something like StockCarRacer48 or something like that. Be as creative as you can, but using your own name may not be such a good idea for privacy reasons.

Most instant messengers run in the background of your operating system, and therefore may require lots of PC resources, such as memory and disk space. If you prefer to keep them open, they can have style=""> all sorts of capabilities, such as showing real-time stock ticker quotes, sports scores, news headlines, advertisements, as well as additional communication options like video chat and VoIP phone calls (separate subscription and or hardware are usually required).

Most of the time, instant messenger programs are safe, because all that you transmit and receive is just text. However, some of the messengers allow you send files and receive them, which could potentially pose a threat of a virus. Fortunately, that feature can be turned off easily. Basically, use common sense, and try to never click on any suspicious links, even from trusted contacts

.The most popular IM clients are available to be downloaded for free. However, they may contain additional-paid features like video, Internet phone calls, and so on.

As for which messenger to select - that really depends on whom you are most likely to be chatting with and which messenger they are already using or will be using. You can first check with your friends and family who are already using instant messaging and find out which IM they use, then download it.

You can always run multiple IM programs, so for example, you can routinely run 3 instant messengers together, and hols several simultaneous conversations with various friends. The big 3 (AIM, MSN) are always improving their products, releasing new versions where new features are constantly being introduced and bugs being fixed. We invite you to try and compare them all, which youcan easily do using our website.

Have fun, and welcome to the exciting world of instant messaging!

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